Sheepless in Seattle

Filed in Webcomic review

(From Count Your Sheep. Click on image to see it full-sized.

Seven days ago, Adis fell in love with his comic all over again. Three days later, I followed suit as Adis sprang a new storytelling timeline on us: CYS: At Seventeen.

When CYS first appeared, it was a quaint story about a single mother with a young daughter, and their shared imaginary friend sheep. But after a bit, Adis decided to expand on Laurieís story, and showed glimpses of Laurieís own childhood with CYS: Back in Time.

With CYS: AS comes a partial shift in colors. CYS has long used soft blues to represent comics with Katie (or at least set in the time after she was born), and Laurieís own childhood is represented in pastel purples. Itís almost a faded fuzzy glimpse into past memories and events. Perhaps due to how recent CYS: AS is, or in an attempt to delineate this as both a part of Laurieís past but not in the distant fuzzy past of the Back in Time strips, CYS: AS is a darker, more intense shade of purple.

The harshness of the color also is a good representation of those tumultuous years between childhood and adulthood, as teens teeter on the edge of adulthood, craving and yet fearing the benefits and responsibilities of this time of life. This is a time of young monsters, as the new generation of barbarians emerges, not yet beaten down and civilized by the doldrums of bills, rent, and holding down one or more jobs.

And itís a time of turmoil for Ship as well. Laurieís ignoring him to go out with ìChaaarlsesî, a young man who yells a lot and has ìissuesî. I do wonder how much of Shipís perception is being influenced by jealousy; I myself havenít trusted one friendís boyfriend for over a year (since I first met him). Iíve wondered if that initial gut feeling was influenced by the realization that my friendship with my friend was going to change irrevocably, with more and more of her time taken up by the boyfriend at the expense of those she used to hang out with.

I can easily see that possibility when I look at Ship when Laurie was 17. People fight. Even as much as Ship loves Laurie (and later Katie), they donít agree on everything. They donít always get along. So are the fights between Laurie and Charles exaggerated in Shipís eyes, tinted by the green glasses of envy and jealousy? The boy has to have some redeeming quality to have attracted Laurie in the first place, doesnít he?

There is also the fact that Ship is rooting for the underdog here. Marty has been attracted to Laurie for close to a decade at this point. And he can see Ship. He likes Ship. If Laurie were dating Marty then Ship wouldnít feel as left out. Heíd be a bigger part of Laurieís life. I suspect that Ship would find any number of reasons to protest someone dating Laurie who wasnít Marty, even if they werenít that bad a person.

I also wonder how close this is to the time that Ship leaves Laurie. He vanished at some point, and returned just before Laurie gave birth to Katie. Weíve only caught a few fuzzy glimpses of Laurieís life outside of her childhood in the Back in Time strips, when she was Katieís age. Itís around this time that Laurie ran away from home, promising not to ever forget… and Ship saying ìgoodbyeî to her (and why Ship didnít go with her was never explained). And then she turned to Marty for help, and he betrayed her by returning her home.

(Interestingly, looking back I notice now that these strips are CYS: Memories of the Past. Again, itís a different color scheme from the other strips… itís not the purple of Laurieís earliest memories, or the pale blues of Katieís stripsÖ but sort of a mixture of blue and purple. I might be wrong… it might be the same general color palette that Adis uses for the normal Back in Time strips… it just feels different somehow.)

The pieces of this jigsaw puzzle are starting to come together now. Why hate Marty? Weíve seen glimpses that Laurie didnít always mind Martyís attentions. But perhaps when she ran away and found herself in over her head, she turned to the one person who always believed in her and accepted her for who and what she was. But he betrayed her trust. He returned her home to parents who never understood her and refused to believe her or in Ship. And so she lashed out against him. She hated him for betraying her… and found Charles.

Charles was everything Marty wasnít. He was demanding where Marty was accepting. He was new, while Marty sheíd known forever. He didnít meet with Shipís approval, while Marty did. Heck, even his name says ìdifferentî. Heís Charles. Not Charlie. Not Chuck. Charles. Marty is Marty (though if itís short for something we donít know).

By dating Charles, Laurie could get back at Marty, get back at Ship, maybe even get back at her parents. Mostly though I think it was Marty she was trying to hurt by being with Charles. And perhaps Charles saw that. He ìhad issuesî and ìyelledî at Laurie… because deep down he knows Laurie isnít really interested in him.

So the tattoo. Itís permanent. Itís a mark of possession, of ownership. Itís a trial of pain. It means something. And it means nothing. Iím not sure if Laurie actually got the tattoo or not. But we know what happened. Eventually, Laurie admits she loves Marty and she married him. And before Katie was born, Marty died. So things donít last with Charles. Sadly, they donít last with Marty either, but for different reasons.

While CYS isnít a traditional story comic, in a way it does have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And as each piece of the puzzle comes together, it is forming a picture that shows us four people. First, we have Laurie, the eternal child and hard-working mother who wants her daughter to have everything she did not. Then we have Katie… the next generation, the new child who continues to carry the torch her mother first picked up years back. Third is Ship, our imaginary sheep who is so full of love that heís been there for two generations, both mother and daughter, caring for and keeping both safe. And last, we have Marty. Marty, who persevered and never gave up hope, and who when he realized he might not make it wrote letters to his wife and daughter. Marty, who has been a part of this strip even if weíve not seen him in-strip, for a long time now.

Robert A. Howard

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